Stratford resident proves blindness is no obstacle to educational success
PRINCETON, NJ – Learning Ally, a 66-year-old nonprofit serving individuals with learning and visual disabilities, has bestowed its Special Honors award to Edward Helbling of Fairless Hills, PA. Helbling is one of several students from across the U.S. who received cash awards and was honored at Learning Ally’s National Gala celebration in Washington, DC on April 18.
From an early age, Helbling always had a love of science. When he was seven years old, he quizzed his teachers about Noah’s ark and the burning bush because he wanted to know the “why” behind the story. Curiosity abounds in his mind, but access to books soon became a barrier to obtaining more knowledge. “My heart dropped every time I heard a snicker or muffled laugh as I labored through a simple reading passage,” Helbling remembers. “I became a shy, lonely, melancholy little boy who never believed he was smart enough.”
All of that changed after his diagnosis of dyslexia led him to Learning Ally. “Audiobooks opened up a world of oceanography, paleontology, astronomy and more – subjects in which my interest far exceeded my ability to read standard print,” says Helbling, adding that his new access to educational materials fostered a life-long love of learning.
As a high school junior, Helbling received an offer to attend Columbia University’s Summer Program for High School students. To cover the tuition, he came up with a creative financial plan. He started a fundraising page where he agreed to give back to the community in the form of volunteer work. For every $50 that was donated, Helbling donated an hour of time working for a charity of the donor’s choice. In this way, he learned about his community’s needs while also funding his dream.
Now as a freshman at Arcadia University, Edward is majoring in chemistry and has his sights on working in chemical engineering. As if that isn’t a big enough goal, he says his real dream is to give back to other kids like him. He wants to be a role model and speak to students who feel as lonely and shy as he once felt. “I have learned that encouraging others to transform their lives can transform my own.”
About the National Achievement Awards
Since 1959, Learning Ally has honored exceptional students who are blind or visually impaired through its privately endowed Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards (SAA) for college seniors and beyond. Hundreds of students apply for these prestigious awards each year and are selected by committees of Learning Ally volunteers, board members, parents, educators, donors and staff. Students are recognized for their academic excellence, leadership, and service to others; each award winner has a long list of honors and accomplishments, and has graduated with a GPA above 3.0, with most near the 4.0 mark; and they have thrived on their education paths thanks in part to their use of accessible educational content and assistive technology provided by Learning Ally. For information about applying for Learning Ally’s National Achievement awards, visit https://learningally.org/NAA/apply.
About Learning Ally
Founded in 1948, Learning Ally helps K-12, college and graduate students, veterans and lifelong learners – all of whom read and learn differently due to blindness, visual impairment, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Through its support programs and audiobooks, Learning Ally enables families and teachers to help students thrive and succeed. The organization provides support to parents and students through events, webinars, personal consultations and other tools; and integrated learning management systems and professional development for teachers. In addition, Learning Ally’s collection of more than 80,000 human-narrated audio textbooks and literature titles can be downloaded on mainstream smartphones and tablets, and is the largest of its kind in the world. Several thousand volunteers help to produce the educational materials, which students rely on to achieve academic and professional success. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Learning Ally is partially funded by grants from state and local education programs, and the generous contributions of individuals, foundations and corporations. For more information, visit https://learningally.org.
Contact: Doug Sprei
Learning Ally PR & Communications